The DOT's $700,000 transformation of a seven block stretch of Broadway into a pedestrian esplanade with tables, chairs and planters is complete, and the Times has taken the anxious pulse of local workers lounging on their lunchbreaks. The consensus? A nice gesture, but it's only a matter of time before a cab swerves into the tables and turns the urban oasis into a scene of unspeakable carnage. Some choice observations from the men and women on the street:
- Robert Stribley, information architect: “You look around and expect a truck to veer off and plow into you at any moment. It’s not Bryant Park. You’ve got exhaust coming at you. But it’s kind of cool.”
- Vicki Lee, clothing designer: “You hear so many accidents of the cars going out of control and all they have here is plastic pots,” she said. But she dug into her salad and added, “We’re going to roll the dice and eat lunch here today.”
- Karis Durmer, Condé Nast employee: “It’s amazing how a few plants can make you feel removed from all that [noise and traffic].” At one point her conversation was interrupted when the siren of a passing fire truck drowned out her words. “They transport you to a calmer place.”
A DOT spokesman sought to reassure a jittery public, telling the Times, “The plaza is protected by parked cars in some locations and in others by planters weighing 600 or 1,000 pounds and stationed in positions that prevent vehicles from passing in between. We have used planters as a pedestrian safeguard in this way at numerous locations throughout the city.”
A section of Broadway between 42nd Street and 35th street was narrowed to two lanes for the esplanade, which now separates traffic from a bike lane. DOT Janette Sadik-Khan has predicted that the change will actually ease traffic as drivers eschew that tighter stretch of Broadway for the avenues.